Perceptions

People’s perceptions are amazing things. They can be extremely strong motivators. They fascinate me not only from a human behavior standpoint but because they matter so much in life. Not necessarily to me, mind you, but in life they do.

Perceptions are what mainly help us form opinions and cast judgment about situations and other people. That’s why they’re important. They also are what help us shape ourselves and determine who we are as people. All that is is pretty important stuff.

But they all are different, and they all are formed differently and they matter in different ways, and even the way we perceive perceptions makes a big difference. That sounds confusing, but if someone thinks others perceive them some way, even if it’s accurate or not, that will determine behavior and future thought.

Some people are capable of looking at others and situations from different perspectives, which is a valuable skill. Some people can’t ever change their perception, and some people consciously make their perception a certain way just so they can live with themselves.

I used to say perceptions are all that matter, but I’ve changed that stance. Of course, things matter more than perceptions, but they’re still crucial to how we live our lives. Perceptions are a two-way phenomenon. They matter in how we perceive others, and they matter, sometimes more to some than others, to how we perceive ourselves. And the different angles and accuracies of those perceptions vary greatly, which is where things get interesting.

Our perceptions change through life and depend on what stage of life we’re in, and who we live among, and where our priorities lie, which also shift all the time. Despite how dynamic perceptions are they seem to maintain a pretty strong steady linear direction through life, even with all the variance, give or take 5% either way. If I had to guess, I’d imagine they are formed during our most malleable years, which are through childhood, teen years, and early twenties. That’s when it seems people get their set of lenses through which they view the remainder of life. Like going to the optometrist and being given a set of glasses and sent on our way to navigate, cope with, judge and behold the world around us and those in it.

More often than not I see people judge books by their covers, instead of waking a mile in their shoes. Those are two ways of saying that some people have a narrow perspective view, and others have experience, wisdom, intelligence, and knowledge enough to try and view others from different angles. This ability is what places people in different political camps, different socio-economic strata, and different levels in life.

When I look around I’m not sure I’d be wrong to state that most people worry about how others perceive them more than how they perceive themselves. Meaning, the concern about perceptions is disproportionately placed outwardly and how total strangers and meaningless people, or just a very small subset of people that really don’t care one way or another, perceive us.  It’s why people buy cars that are so over the top luxurious the King of Prussia would be embarrassed to drive them, or people worry about what neighborhood they live in, or how big their house is or what kind of clothes they wear, and so on. Some people actually pay money to designers to advertise the designer on themselves to make sure people’s perception is something they’ve crafted in their heads to mean something other than what they are. And that seems to be what perceptions are most about. People trying to manipulate other people’s perceptions to be something dreamt up in the person’s head that isn’t even real.

That has more to do with integrity, self -respect, self-esteem, maturity, accountability and a list of traits that some people concern themselves with and others don’t.  It has to do with character and what a person does when no one’s watching. When no one knows or will ever know your behavior. If the whole world were blind, how would you dress? How would you act? My guess here is that if surveyed and linear regression was applied, you’d see an effect where there are two camps: One that holds themselves to a higher standard, or aspires to a higher standard, even if not achievable, and those that don’t. In other words, a group of people that have no standards, don’t worry about them and don’t care, but they DO care about perceptions. That’s how strong perceptions are.

Some people simply rely on stereotypes to form their perceptions. Lots of people do that, including much of Hollywood. That aligns with people that have equally narrow perceptions. I don’t know about others, but I’ve had people have the wrong perceptions about me since I can ever remember. Being a Southerner. Going to prep school. Being a deadhead. Having an MBA. You name it, people will form judgments about me knowing nothing more about me than what they can perceive from a label.

And personally, I don’t care about any of those things. Because they alone don’t shape my character. Having a three-year-old child and setting an example for her is what dictates how I want to be perceived. I am concerned about how my daughter perceives me, but I don’t worry about it, because I behave just as I would if she were around even when she isn’t. I have standards for myself, and aspire to higher standards, even if I can’t achieve them. It’s (just one) a reason why I keep a clean, neat home, from top to bottom. I don’t have many visitors, but when people stop by, they’ll leave with a perception that I can manage my life and home and surroundings well. And I care about the environment I raise my daughter in, and set a good example for her. It’s why I make my bed every morning and I make sure Cecelia sees me do it. I’m teaching her how to manage her life and maintain personal control over her environment. Not everyone can do something as simple, but important, as that.

On the other hand, some people spend all their time creating what they want others to see, as best as they can. They stage themselves and use lies, deceit, omissions of fact, and any manipulative tool at hand (but usually reach for the two or three they’ve honed and are comfortable with over their lifetime)  and are only worried about how they believe others perceive them. They’re superficial and transparent usually, and devoid of integrity and meaning. People’s perceptions are their own reality can be quite true, and some people, who don’t mind lying to themselves(and others), will change perceptions to create their own reality. And that reality can be wildly different from actual reality, believe me.

That seems to be where a lot of the trouble lies. When you have one group who cares about the accuracy of perceptions, and another who is indifferent and self-absorbed.

“Truth” doesn’t seem to be a central point to thought anymore. My ex-wife told me she doesn’t care about the truth. No kidding. Our freshman congresswoman from NYC, AOC also doesn’t care about the truth. So how do we manage perceptions when no one cares about the truth, which is the foundation of discourse?

you will believe what I want you to believe